“Atomic Blonde” – a film review by Gary Chew
There are two big things to report out on having seen Atomic Blonde. First of all, this Charlize Theron vehicle finally provides us with a more extended fight scene than the seems-like-forever fisticuffs we endured between Roddy Piper and Keith David in John Carpenter’s creepy, dystopian nightmare loved, loathed and called They Live. That’s how up to date and fresh Atomic Blonde detonates on screen.
Second, this action-packed female – but ballsy – spy thriller looks back far enough in history to a point where a Soviet Russian spy actually calls a person of capitalistic persuasion a very derogatory, naughty name. My how things have changed in this brave new Putin-Trump World in which we live!
There is a list. A list of names every spy agency on earth wants: the fuel for this non-stop, barn-burning zip through the last days of the Berlin Wall while it was still in tact. It’s so real, glimpses of the Gipper (not wearing his football helmet) newspeaks lofty rhetoric that Mr. Gorbachev really ought to “tear down this wall.”
Charlize plays an MI 6 agent. Her name is Lorraine Broughton. She hooks up with her Brit contact in a chilly East Berlin. James McAvoy is that bloke; named David Percival. Mr. Percival’s character looks as if he might have skinhead tendencies, but still, Lorraine and he are out to score a dossier with names on it that will really let the dogs out. It’s a bit like the news we now experience on cable TV.
Lorraine recounts the whole shebang, in flashback, as she’s debriefed by two of her superiors; both male, of course. John Goodman is called Emmett Kurzfeld and Toby Jones is the more genteel of the pair; named Eric Gray.
Another semi-important participant is Delphine Lasalle, played by Algerian born actor Sofia Boutella. Ms. Boutella looks like someone Daniel Craig, as 007, might spend an exotic weekend with in the Seyshelles. But Delphine’s character is primarily put into the script so Lorraine can have another beautiful woman to kiss and make love with… after a hard day at the “office” beating the crap out of lots of menacing Soviet guards and military folks.
Theron does all her own fight scenes, wow, besides acting. For herself, Charlize is the brilliant stunt double, just like the director of Blonde. That would be David Leitch, who’s at the forefront of doing stunts in many movies, even for Brad Pitt.
Atomic Blonde couldn’t be more action packed, but Leitch seems to believe it could have even more energy. This became apparent to my ears, in short order, since Leitch’s audio-mixing people boost the wild and crazy track music, as well as the grunt sounds of blunt force traumatizing, up more decibels than I could imagine, which makes it perfectly clear that this is, by god, the most kick ass scene you’re ever gonna see in anybody’s motion picture. The times I counted that I had to put a finger in each of my ears stand at nineteen. When sound and music in a movie are (Whoa!) way too loud, I do that to hear stuff.
Theron, except for her magnificent job kicking male actors’ butts, pretty much phones in her part; but happily, you get to see her on the screen while she maintains, for the most part, that look on her face suggesting you don’t want to ever mess with this Oscar winning beauty. Ballsy beauties in movies is very IN.
Toby Jones is always a hoot for the restraint he brings to his “little guy” performances but Goodman, who’s one of my very favorite second banana guys to show up in any movie, doesn’t stand out so much. His earlier work is better stated. And it’s hard to believe that James McAvoy, playing Percival with a buzz cut much like the one worn by the little French guy villain in the Eighties film titled Diva, could also have the talent to play the male lead in the very, very fine film Atonement.
Other than that, you also might want to know that the twists in the narrative are so-so surprising… but, as with all of this radioactive caper, it’s relentlessly derivative. Warning: sequels seem apparent.